Part of USS Challenger: New Beginnings

T-Minus 2 Weeks

U.S.S. Challenger NCC-71099
October 2399
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Two weeks. They would depart McKinley Station in two weeks. That’s how long Captain Forrester had to fill a number of vacancies in the Challenger’s senior ranks. He’d been provided with a number of service records for each position but Thomas had a few names in mind that weren’t included. First up was his choice for Chief Engineer and as luck would have it, he was already onboard.

“Commander Calloway, could I have a few moments of your time?” Forrester asked as he approached the taller man.

Thomas watched as Calloway’s shoulders and neck tensed in the seconds before he turned around. He wasn’t entirely sure where the engineer’s dislike of him came from. Sure, they’d had a disagreement during the Grian mission but he didn’t think it merited the level of animosity that Calloway seemed to be holding. Of course that presented another problem; it made it less likely that the Commander would accept his offer.

“What can I do for you, sir?” Calloway asked stiffly once they reached the alcove where the Chief Engineer usually worked. A large transparent aluminium window gave a great view of the currently inactive warp core.

Thomas glanced out at the warp core as he asked, “Any idea where you’ll be going once the Challenger’s refit is complete?”

“I’ll be taking over as the lead engineer on the Trafalgar refit.” Calloway replied.

That brought a smile to Thomas’ lips. “She’s a fine ship, Commander.” When Calloway said nothing in reply, just offering a nod, the Captain continued, “I was hoping I could convince you to stay on as chief engineer. No-one knows the Challenger better than you. I could really use that expertise.”

“I appreciate the offer, sir, but I’m going to have to decline.” Calloway replied.

Thomas couldn’t stop his shoulders from slumping. It was the answer he’d expected but there had been a glimmer of hope that he’d clung to, only for that glimmer to be extinguished. It was time for a different tactic: begging. “At least give me six months. If, at the end of that time you want to return to the shipyards then I’ll see to it personally.” He quickly added a sweetener, “And you can pick your own assistant chief and division heads.”

“That’s a very generous offer.” Calloway smiled tightly. “But I’m afraid my answer is still no.”

It was clear that Thomas needed to try and address whatever problem Calloway had with him. “If this is about what happened-”

“It’s not, sir.” Calloway quickly cut in. “I’ve spent most of the past fifteen years on frontline starships. About a year ago I decided it was time for a change and I requested reassignment to the shipyards. It was the best decision I’ve made. This past year has been one of the most rewarding of my recent career.” With a shrug he added, “I have no desire to go back out there anytime soon.”

Thomas let out a defeated sigh. “Alright, Commander. I won’t take any more of your time.” Calloway nodded and walked off without another word, relief visible on his features. “Dammit.” The Captain muttered before he left engineering behind.

Instead of working out of his ready room, which still had engineers coming and going to fix this or adjust that, Thomas had set himself up in his quarters. They were standard for this class of starship, which meant that they were slightly larger than the quarters he’d enjoyed on the Trafalgar.

He’d heard rumours that the Captain’s quarters on the larger Odyssey-class starships were on a whole different level. One person had told him they could put the Nagal residence to shame. While that seemed implausible, it did make Thomas wonder if he should request some changes made to his own quarters. 

Growing up on Coltar, replicator use for food had been limited. Most of the food they consumed was grown and prepared by hand. Thomas had learned how to bake and cook at his mothers elbow, had enjoyed the time he spent as her assistant and, as he got older, taking the lead in preparing meals for the family. He’d continued to cook as much as possible but kitchens weren’t a standard part of the crew quarters on Starfleet ships.

Thomas forced the memories down, back into the box he’d locked them away in long ago and forced himself back to the present. The Challenger was large enough, and there was enough free space, that his quarters could be expanded to include a full kitchen and a proper dining room to allow him to prepare his own meals. He may have to rely on the replicator for the ingredients, but at least he could actually prepare the meals himself, lose himself in the process of baking or cooking for a while.

‘One more reason for Calloway to hate me.’ Thomas mused silently as he set foot in his new home. He had a new chief engineer to find but that was a task for tomorrow along with speaking to the person he hoped would be his new chief medical officer. 

He hoped that his next conversation would be more successful.


Who the hell was knocking on his door at two in the afternoon?

Josh picked up the t-shirt that had been discarded by the door and hastily pulled it over his head before reaching out for the handle and pulling the door open. The surprise at finding Captain Thomas Forrester standing at his door was not just evident from his tone, it was written all over his face. He’d often been told he had a lousy poker face. “Captain. What…uh…what brings you by?”

He watched as the Captain silently studied him for a few seconds before speaking. “I was hoping to get a few minutes of your time, but I feel like I’m interrupting something.”

Glancing at his reflection at a full length mirror to the right of his front door, Josh could see why the Captain thought that. His hair was a mess, and the t-shirt he’d just pulled on was inside out and the jogging bottoms he was wearing were on backwards. He opened his mouth to reply when a voice called out from the bedroom. “Tell them to come back later, Josh. Like in an hour,” there was a momentary pause, “or five.”

He watched, horrified, as the Captain realised that he had indeed interrupted something. The smirk that pulled Forrester’s lips to the right, the amusement gleaming in his eyes told Josh that he knew exactly what. Worse still, he could see the look of recognition in his eyes, He knew who the voice from the bedroom belonged to. 

Josh closed his eyes and dropped his head, wishing that whatever higher power existed in the universe would strike him down in that moment. Surely it was the merciful thing to do.

When the Captain spoke next, he wasn’t addressing Josh but rather the owner of the disembodied voice. “I only need a few minutes of his time, AJ. Keep your hair on.” Josh could already feel the heat rising, up his neck and onto his cheeks. What the Captain said next only caused his face to burn hotter. “I’d tell him to keep his pants on but I think that ship has probably sailed.” The Captain muttered so that only Josh could hear.

“Tom.” a voice said from over his shoulder. Josh didn’t want to look, afraid of what he would see when he did but he had to. Opening his eyes, he glanced over his shoulder. Stood in the doorway of his bedroom was Alexander Mitchell wearing nothing but a bed sheet wrapped around his waist. “What’re you doing here?” As if Josh’s embarrassment couldn’t get any worse.

He turned his attention back to the Captain to find Forrester’s smirk had grown even wider. “I just need a few minutes of Doctor Miller’s time. You go back to bed and I’ll have him join you soon.”

“Two minutes.” Mitchell instructed before retreating back to the bedroom to leave Josh and the Captain to their conversation.

The smirk on Forrester’s lips and the amusement in his eyes made Josh want to punch him, to wipe that smirk right off his face but striking a superior officer wasn’t the best way to advance one’s career so he fought that urge. That fight became more difficult when the Captain spoke. “Is he always so demanding,” he paused for a second and held up a hand, “y’know what, don’t answer that. I don’t wanna know.”

“What can I do for you, Captain.” Josh asked, trying to keep his tone even. Maybe he’d be able to look back on this moment in months to come and laugh about it but right now his sense of humour was a well that had run dry.

Forrester tapped the PADD in his hand. “As I’m sure AJ has told you, I’ve been given command of the Challenger.” Josh just silently nodded and waited for the Captain to continue. “Well, I need a chief medical officer and I understand that you’re still between assignments. The post is yours if you want it.”

“Did Xander put you-” Josh tried to ask.

Forrester was quick to cut him off. “I haven’t discussed this with AJ. It has nothing to do with,” the Captain made a vague gesture with his free hand, “whatever’s going on here. I reviewed your service record before the Grian mission. You’re the person I want running my Sickbay.” He paused for a moment to let that sink in. “Think about it. I need your answer by the end of the week.

“I don’t need that long, sir.” Josh quickly replied. Forrester looked like he was bracing himself for rejection and Josh was certain there was a story behind that. “I accept.” The Captain visibly relaxed at being given the answer he wanted.

The Captain handed the PADD over. “Good. Here are your orders.” Josh accepted it and skimmed the first few lines. His attention returned to Forrester as the Captain spoke again. “And if you two are going to continue seeing each other once aboard, do yourselves a favour and be discreet. The XO’s already gunning for AJ after what happened on the Independence.”

Josh’s brow furrowed in confusion. What was that supposed to mean? What had happened on the Independence? He was about to ask the question but was beaten by the Captain. “Hang on, did this start on the Grian mission?” Josh could feel his face heating up again and his averted gaze was all the answer the Captain needed. “So when the team was on the planet you two were-“

“No sir.” Josh quickly cut in. “It was after the team returned to the runabout.”

Forrester’s eyes narrowed. “But before we got back to Earth?” Josh nodded, embarrassment burning his cheeks. “I don’t understand, the runabout wasn’t very big where in the hell did you-” He stopped short and motioned with his hands. “Y’know what, don’t tell me. I don’t wanna know.” Forrester straightened. “I’ll see you both onboard.”

“Thank you, sir.” The smile Josh flashed was genuine. One not just of gratitude but excitement.

The smirk returned to Forrester’s lips. “You boys enjoy your afternoon delight.”

With that the Captain was gone and Josh closed the door behind him. That had to have been one of the most mortifying moments of his life, worse even than dancing on a bar drunk when he was the Bismarck’s chief medical officer. Any questions he had about what happened to Xander on the Independence were quickly forgotten when he returned to the bedroom.

There was plenty of time for questions later.